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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
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Analysis

The 'surprise' Mercedes time that puts F1's victory fight back on a knife-edge in France

Red Bull led the way after the first two practice sessions for the 2021 French Grand Prix, but only just ahead of Mercedes. There was all the usual practice skulduggery complicating the performance picture, but one aspect seen at the world champion squad gave it a ‘surprise’ lift, as it looks to leave its street-circuit struggles firmly in the past

Formula 1’s recent street circuit sojourn was not kind to Mercedes.  Although Valtteri Bottas was in podium contention in Monaco and Lewis Hamilton was within one accidental finger-brush of taking an unlikely victory in Baku, Red Bull had the clear upper hand.

As the Black Arrows drivers struggled to find tyre temperature, Max Verstappen should’ve taken two consecutive victories to follow his deja vu defeat in Spain (even if he had some assistance with Charles Leclerc’s DNS in Monaco). Red Bull gaining points as its rival toiled was an important part of the last two races, as Mercedes was always predicted to return to form at this weekend’s French Grand Prix because of Paul Ricard’s ‘normal’ nature – a purpose-built venue, filled with medium and high-speed turns.

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